BCI Pilots Worker Voice Technology For Pakistan’s Cotton Farmers

Global Not-For-Profit Organisation Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) Has Piloted The Worker Voice Technology In Pakistan.

Global Not-For-Profit Organisation Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) Has Piloted The Worker Voice Technology In Pakistan to better understand the challenges faced by cotton-farming communities. The technology is designed to hear directly from workers on working conditions via their mobile phones, for one-way feedback as well as two-way communications.

The information gathered from farmers and farm workers can then be used to better understand working practices and labour risks, and to inform assessments and capacity building. BCI has begun to explore how this can be used in its work through a pilot in Sindh province, Pakistan. The pilot, which took place over two weeks in April 2021, aimed to understand whether worker voice and related technologies are applicable in the agricultural settings where BCI works, the organisation said in a blog post.

For the pilot, BCI partnered with?Ulula, a provider of Worker Voice Technology. BCI and Ulula created a mobile phone-based survey incorporating Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Survey questions addressed labour practices, pesticide use, agricultural practice adoption, and training attendance, with questions targeted to farmers and farm workers. The survey responses provided key insights into agronomic and labour practices which were further investigated during the producer licensing assessments in the area.

Using the IVR approach, respondents answer multiple-choice questions on their cell phones using their keypad. They then receive a free voice call to their phone after which an automated message plays, first getting the participant’s consent, and then asking a series of pre-recorded questions. An IVR survey was used to make it easier for low literacy groups to participate, and because it does not require participants to use a smartphone or cellular data.

With the support of long-term BCI Implementing Partner?CABI, the phone survey was deployed over a two-week period. Outreach activities to publicise the survey capitalised on already planned in-person trainings for farmers and farm workers. CABI field staff also promoted the survey through farmer WhatsApp groups, posting flyers, and pre-registering interested respondents. A small raffle prize of a phone credit was also advertised and distributed randomly to a sample of participants.

Nearly 500 survey responses were received from 332 farmers and 136 farm workers with women composing 22 per cent of all respondents. The survey followed a skip logic, ensuring that respondents only received questions relevant to them based on past answers – if all questions were answered, the survey would take less than 10 minutes to complete. All survey responses were fully anonymised with identifiable personal data, like phone numbers, removed from the data.

As a next step, BCI will explore how Worker Voice Technology can be used in targeted areas to better understand farmer practices and labour risks, and to inform assessments and capacity building.

While the pilot relied mostly on a one-way response channel from participants to BCI, in the future, additional features could be employed to enable ongoing two-way communication between BCI, its Implementing Partners, and farmer and farm workers. In the long term, with established trust and engagement, this approach can be further explored to serve as a channel for farmers and workers to raise concerns or grievances and access remedies.

This news was originally published at Fibre 2 Fashion.

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